The end of “Aksarben Royalty” is long overdue

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After 123 years, the reign of Aksarben Royalty has come to an end. Opinion editor Jessica Wade shares her thoughts on the tradition.
Jessica Wade
OPINION EDITOR

A tradition that is better left in the past, officials of the Aksarben Foundation have announced that there will no longer be a king and queen crowned during the annual Aksarben Ball celebration.

The crowning of Omaha royalty has taken place since 1895 when the mythical kingdom of Quivira was established as an addition to Omaha’s limited entertainment opportunities and to encourage philanthropy throughout the community.

The 123-year-old tradition was recently met with a few criticisms, one of which echoes a topic that has been discussed on international platforms—gender and power imbalance.

The king, according to the Aksarben Foundation’s website, “represents the past and is a business and civic leader who has contributed immeasurably to the Heartland throughout his life and career.” The queen “represents the future and hope for continued prosperity throughout the Heartland.” In other words, the king is an elderly, wealthy member of the community, and a queen is typically a woman in her 20s or late teens.

The Aksarben Foundation is a philanthropic organization. With a board made up of more than a dozen CEOs, presidents and people in other high-level, powerful positions, the whole idea of imitating royalty is, well, a bit on the nose.

News of the change to the Aksarben Ball was met with vast support on social media.

“Long overdue change. Was creepy for far too long.” One person commented on the Omaha World-Herald’s Facebook page.

“Sad! Now how will rich people feel important?” Another person wrote on Twitter.

Though scarce, there were a few calls to keep the tradition.

“It would be nice if they would keep the tradition, just another wonderful thing that used to be that still should be,” someone commented on KMTV’s Facebook post.

And a call on Facebook for the tradition to simply be revised. “Alternatively, they certainly could have simply taken a path of crowning kings and queens recognizing both men AND women for their entrepreneurial and philanthropic contributions to the community…”

No matter how old the tradition, as soon-to-be Chairman of the Aksarben Board of Governors Terry Kroeger put it, the crowing of a king and queen was distracting from the Foundation’s true purpose.

“The king-queen thing presented some awkwardness that got in the way of our real mission, which is workforce, scholarships and volunteerism,” Kroeger said in an interview with the Omaha World-Herald.

The Aksarben Foundation has done a notable amount of good in the Omaha community. Offering a number of annual scholarships, community grants and agricultural initiatives, the Aksarben Ball provides an opportunity to recognize and honor those in the community for leadership and philanthropy.

Surely, the Foundation can find a way to honor both the men and women who have given so much to the community. If anything, endowing a crown and a superficial title takes just a bit of the sincerity away from the acts of selflessness carried out by those being honored.

The acts of the Aksarben Foundation are already noble; they don’t need a crown to prove it.

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